Posted by Ian Fogg on October 7, 2009
Today, Amazon have launched a new Kindle that they are marketing internationally. Prior Kindle models were limited to use in the US. Key details:
- Big promotion in the centre of the front page of Amazon sites in the UK, France, Germany and Japan.
- Only for sale on Amazon.com and priced in USD at $279 (i.e. a $20 mark-up over existing Kindle2). Promotions above have links to Amazon's US site to buy.
- Books are also for sale only via Amazon.com and are also priced in USD (at least for now).
- This is the first Kindle that uses a GSM-standard mobile phone radio -- rather than CDMA -- for wireless downloading of books, sync of reading position with other Kindles and the iPhone Kindle app (i.e. to drive Amazon's Whispersync consumer cloud service).
- Uses AT&T's mobile network and AT&T's global mobile roaming partners for Whispersync.
- When outside the US, Kindle owners pay an additional charge for each book downloaded, currently USD1.99 per download. I imagine this also includes downloading PDFs via the email to Kindle conversion process and downloading small items like blogs or newspapers.
I'm frankly astonished that Amazon is marketing the above product internationally so strongly. Instead, it looks like a great fit for US residents who want to own a Kindle that works both in the US and when they travel abroad. Or, Amazon could have chosen a much softer and lower key international promotion on their various global sites.
For European or Japanese residents there are multiple barriers to adoption and use of this Kindle, which will cause serious issues for Amazon's famed customer service reputation: As everything is currently priced in dollars, consumers outside the US will likely hit additional credit card fees when they buy; import of the Kindle will likely incur significant customs charges; and the per download roaming fee will rapidly add up to a significant sum given it hits on every newspaper or book download.
So, why have Amazon chosen to market this product so significantly on their various non-US websites today, ahead of the launch of international Kindle stores priced in local currencies?
I suspect this indicates that Amazon has failed to secure the international mobile operator partners it needs to offer Whispersync without per use fees, and by making such a big deal of this launch internationally Amazon hopes this will put pressure back on those partners to come back to the table. But if so, then why has the Kindle iPhone app not also been launched on those countries' Apple App Store's for use on the iPhone? The iPhone version wouldn't have those same data roaming costs when a consumer is in their home country of the UK, France etc. as iPhones are sold with inclusive mobile data. Other thoughts? Please comment below.